Online vs Local Bike Shop (LBS)

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Equipment, Tips & Hints

OK, this is a BIG question… and bigger if you’re not a particularly good mechanic!

My feeling is there is room to have a good relationship with a LBS and take advantage of savings online; especially when it comes to junior cycling.  I say that because of the peculiarities with junior cycling; with the restricted gears, small saddles, narrow handlebars, short cranks, small frames… things that LBSs don’t tend to stock and often don’t even know where to get.

Wiggle, eBay, ProBikeKit, Competitive Cyclist, Velodrome Shop… the list of online cycling retailers goes on… always look for the sales!

I think it is ideal to establish a relationship with a LBS.  Maybe the one closest to your home or your office, or one you’ve been referred to.  Bring your child in and explain that they are racing and would love advice.  See if you can get the LBS to buy into the development of your kid.  Even buy one of their kits and offer for your kid to wear it if they’d like to pay for registration… a sort of beginning sponsorship, but at vary little cost to the shop (at least for now!).

Build the relationship.  Buy your medium sized items from the shop.  Also buy cheaper disposables like tubes (by the time you pay for shipping there’s usually not much in the price of a tube!).  Save online for the unmissable bargains; the frame sets, wheel sets, pedals, computers, etc and for the overprices local items like tyres and shoes. You have to own up to maybe 30% of your online sales, the rest, you attribute to being from other parents, the club, etc.  Oh, never buy a a helmet on an overseas site… it doesn’t come with Australian standards stickers…  you’ll only make that mistake once!

Try and find a shop with a knowledgeable proprietor who buys into your child’s development.

I’ve had a long relationship with my LBS.  I reckon I’ve bought six bikes off them (often end of season run outs) and referred at least another six.  My wife tells me there is always something on the credit card statement each month from them (and that doesn’t count the cash purchases!).  For this loyalty, he services all my, and my son’s, bikes for free; provides bike-fit (and with a growing kid this is pretty regular); and gives me a flat 20% off everything I buy.  I think its a beautiful relationship that works both ways but you need two people prepared to make it work.

You can’t take-take-take.  You need to recognise that your LBS is probably not a big business and the margins on bikes, components and accessories are ever shrinking.  You need to be active in recommending your friends and family to the shop, knowing they’ll be looked after, and you need to give them enough business to keep them sweet.

Another good way to build the relationship is to provide them with regular updates on your child’s results and sending in photos of their kit in action.  Get your child to do a monthly report for the proprietor – this is excellent training for them in the use of technology and how to service their sponsor.

At the end of the day, if you pick a frame set on Wiggle, a wheel set on eBay and crankset from a mate, you still need all the other bits and pieces and you need someone skilled at putting it all together.  Be honest (to a degree) give them advance notice that you heard of this small frame set that so-and-so bought for their wife and they’re trying to get rid of because is was too small (or some story); ask the LBS what they think it might be worth if you could buy it?  Then, when you turn up with it (and the other gear) it isn’t a surprise, and you’ll find they are only too happy to pick up the sale of the remaining components and put it together for you.

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